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Remarkable Royal Visits: The Queen and Prince Philip visit Aberfan, 1966

Aberfan is a former coal mining village in South Wales just 4 miles south of Merthyr Tydfil, and unfortunately it became known for the Aberfan disaster that happened on 21st October 1966. The disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip and saw 40,000 cubic metres of debris cover the village of Aberfan in just minutes. The classrooms of Pantglas Junior School were immediately inundated with the debris and resulted in both teachers and students dying from impact or suffocation. 116 children and 28 adults lost their lives. Even more poignant is that had the disaster struck a few minutes earlier, the children would not have been in their classrooms. Should it have struck a few hours later, the school would have been broken up for half term.

Nine days after the devastating disaster on the 30th October 1966, The Queen and Prince Philip arrived in the distraught village of Aberfan. They were there to pay their respects to those who had lost their lives and upon their arrival; The Queen was presented with a posy of flowers from a three-year-old girl. The inscription with the flowers read: From the remaining children of Aberfan. Onlookers commented that The Queen was close to tears after reading the message.

Though Her Majesty and Prince Philip made the trip to Aberfan, it has been reported that the delay between the disaster and The Queen’s visit is her biggest regret after over 60 years on the Throne. In a conversation with Gyles Brandreth, Her Majesty’s late Private Secretary Lord Charteris acknowledged that failing to go there sooner was her biggest regret. When Brandreth asked Charteris if The Queen had ever put a foot wrong, he just replied “Aberfan”.

It may be considered a regret but since the disaster, The Queen has made four visits to the village of Aberfan. The most recent visit being on her Diamond Jubilee tour of Wales, 46 years after the disaster. On this visit, she officially opened a new primary school that symbolised a fresh generation of hope in the catastrophe hit pit village. The official opening of the new school was a promise made by Her Majesty in a year that residents of Aberfan will never forget, a promise duly fulfilled.

So although The Queen and Prince Philip’s visit to Aberfan in 1966 was under such devastating circumstances, nobody can deny it will go down in history as a Remarkable Royal Visit nonetheless.